Speech of SP Franklin M. Drilon
Adjournment sine die
Second Regular Session, Thirteenth Congress
June 8, 2006

So who's afraid of the Senate?

My colleagues in this Chamber:

Twenty years after this institution was restored as one of a two-chambered legislature, a body manifestly identified by the Constitution that was ratified overwhelmingly in 1987 as co-equal with the Executive and the Judiciary, the present Senate, our Senate, the people's Senate, is clearly under siege /

Hurled over our ramparts are charges of obstructionism and labels of destabilizers by detractors enamored by artificial political stability over the noise of a vibrant democracy /  Gnawing at the Senate's foundations are the pangs of supposed irrelevance juiced up by the call for the establishment of a unicameral body of yes men and women fearful of open, critical and cerebral debates---a legislative quality, trait and a must---that inspire an indifferent mass of people to be a great and thinking nation /

So who's afraid of the Senate? Why is it under siege? What makes the incumbent administration act so vindictively?

Today we end the Second Regular Session of the 13 th Congress of the Philippines /  And I do feel a certain pride in what we in the Senate had done to help maintain stability in a tumultuous political season /  Indeed, it was a season marred by questions of legitimacy of the present administration, and continuing civil protests and military restiveness over undemocratic and constitutionally-infirm actions taken by the Arroyo administration after we opened sessions in July last year /

Recall that at the height of congressional investigations over the "Hello Garci" tapes, the aborted impeachment proceedings in the House, our very own investigations on the Venable LLB contract entered into by the National Security Adviser with a U.S. lobby firm, the North Rail project and the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, among others, the Arroyo administration issued Executive Order 464 /

From then on, the Senate has been the target of vicious attacks by Malacañang and its cohorts /  Civility and courtesy have been tossed aside /  And we in the Senate have been vilified, maligned and incessantly insulted by those who supposedly profess to wear the armor of democrats but are autocrats inside; by those who supposedly speak for the people but speak only for their favored people; and by those who supposedly tell the truth but tell only their perverted version of the truth /  EO 464 was their brazen attempt to strip us of power---a constitutionally guaranteed power we share with two other branches of government in a system of checks and balances /

So who's afraid of the Senate? Amidst all these well-entrenched rhetoric that earned publicity points devoid of substance, we spoke with reason /  Amidst this Babel and babble of lies, we sought and spoke the truth /  And amidst the administration's authoritarian tendencies, we stood by democracy /

Fellow senators of this Chamber, remember that during those troublesome days, we unanimously passed a resolution authorizing our colleague, Senator Joker Arroyo, to argue on our behalf our case before the highest court of the land questioning the constitutionality of EO 464 /  We passed a resolution condemning the raid on a daily newspaper, the warrantless arrests of citizens, including a member of the House, and other similar questionable acts carried out by government in pursuit of Presidential Proclamation 1017 /  We debated in this hall the legality of the so-called calibrated preemptive response (CPR) which deprived our people of the right to peaceably assemble, march and denounce government abuses and incompetence /

Lest we and the nation forget, in April this year, the Supreme Court, an institution that shares our own democratic and republican vision---and protective of constitutional ideals from whence we and they draw powers---ruled, by a vote of 14-0, that EO 464 cannot be used as a tool to stifle the Legislature's powers to compel top administration, military and police officials to appear before Congress in pursuit of its investigative and oversight duties /  Shortly thereafter, the High Court turned down the use of CPR by police authorities /  And, in another exercise of judicial wisdom, it voted unanimously against questionable acts committed in pursuit of PP 1017 /

Our nation heaved a collective sigh of relief /  No matter how you look at it, the Supreme Court's sobering actions were a vindication of the Senate's efforts to preserve democratic practices and traditions so cherished by our people /

In the end, the Senate stood like a formidable rock by the bay against the red-faced molehill along the river /

My esteemed colleagues, it was a great honor to lead this Chamber during the crucial moments in our nation's history /  I am very pleased that we can face our people with dignity and pride because we, the members of the Senate, stood as one to preserve the independence and integrity of this Chamber despite the arrows of political intrigues ferociously shot into our turf. I am profoundly grateful for your unstinting support in efforts to make the Senate the bastion of democracy /

If I had incurred the ire of the present administration because of my steadfast commitment to preserve and promote democracy, there never will be an iota of regret in my heart /  It was a decision that had nothing to do with my political life, but a decision I made in defense of democracy /  As the leader of this Chamber, it was my duty to address the threat to democracy and good governance /

For our severest critics who labeled us "destabilizers", "irrelevant" and "national faultfinders", let me for the record enumerate what we had accomplished even when EO 464 was unwittingly imposed upon Congress /

Committee Hearings In Aid of Legislation

Knowing that the national budget is a vital tool for government to successfully execute its plans, programs and priorities, the Senate, through Senate Resolution No. 47 passed on November 9, 2005, constituted itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the proposed budget for 2006 /  Note that Malacañang submitted its proposed national budget two months late, while the House, fiddling with Charter change initiatives, took its time and transmitted the proposed budget to the Senate only in March this year /

Nevertheless, after two (2) weeks of marathon sessions, we managed to approve the FY 2006 General Appropriations bill /

We made a strong collective stand for a leaner budget by removing the funds which could not be justified by the executive department and would have been used indiscriminately as pork barrel of the Palace, among which principally are the Kilos Asenso Support Fund and the Kalayaan Barangay Fund /

We are dismayed that the lower house has politicized the issue and has refused to see the merit of our proposal to prioritize expenditures and remove the fat – basic principles for a sound and rational budget /

The Committee of the Whole conducted a total of 42 (morning and afternoon) hearings from November 14, 2005 to March 29, 2006 /  The Senate spent 177 hours and 35 minutes---or more than seven whole days---productively going through the budgets of the different departments and offices /

One of the highlights of these budget hearings was the discovery that funds recovered from the Marcos's ill-gotten wealth were allegedly withdrawn by the Department of Agriculture and diverted to other uses than that provided under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law /  There were serious allegations that P100 million from the Marcos fund was part of the P728-million fertilizer fund scam surreptitiously used in the election campaign of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo /

On March 6, 2006, the Senate's Committee on Agriculture investigating the fertilizer fund scam came out with a committee report and found certain agriculture officials culpable for misspending and pocketing fertilizer funds intended to benefit rightful farmer-beneficiaries /  Findings of the independent Commission on Audit validated the committee report /  Our findings are now with the Office of the Ombudsman /

The North Rail Project hearing was another classic example wherein the Senate was able to inform the public how transparency was sacrificed for the sake of expediency and vested political interests /

In early December 2005, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee came out with a report, which was adopted by the Senate, categorically pointing out that no new or remedial law was needed to correct the Comelec Modernization Act /  The report stressed that the automated election law and related laws are good and adequate /  What was wrong, it said, was the flagrantly fraudulent manner of its implementation /  The Senate recommended that Comelec officials involved in the anomaly should either relinquish their positions, face criminal prosecution, or be removed through appropriate constitutional process /  This action aims to bring back the lack of trust and confidence of the people on the Comelec as a body that can conduct honest, fair and clean elections /

On February 14, 2006, the Senate passed Resolution No. 63 authorizing Sen. Joker Arroyo, together with the counsel-of-record, to argue before the highest court of the land the case of the Senate in the petition it filed questioning the constitutionality of EO 464 /  On February 21, the High Court, sitting en banc, heard our esteemed colleague and lawyer Pacifico Agabin argue against the executive order /  We now know how the Supreme Court ruled on this case /

Again, on February 27, 2006, we approved Senate Resolution No. 67 condemning the raid and the exercise of control over print media, the warrantless arrests of several citizens, and other similar undemocratic acts carried out by the government in the name of Proclamation No. 1017 issued by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo /  We now also know how the Supreme Court ruled on the petitions filed against PP1017 /

Still, our political adversaries were unrelenting /  On March 10, 2006, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued Memorandum Circular No. 2006-25 enjoining all the Punong Barangays to conduct Barangay Assemblies on March 25, 2006 /

These gatherings were supposed to serve as fora to tackle issues supposedly on health, agriculture, education, and "current issues affecting the country /  " Clearly writ behind those small prints of so-called petition forms or questionnaires, however, were the words "Cha-cha" and "Abolish the Senate" through the so-called people's initiative /

Media reported of cash being passed around, of canned food commodities and bagfuls of rice being offered in exchange for the assemblies' signatures /  And they called it people's initiative?

In response to the signature campaign to amend the Constitution through a people's initiative which commenced on March 25, 2006, this Chamber passed Resolution No. 77, expressing the sense of the Senate that the signature campaign to introduce changes to the Constitution through Barangay Assemblies initiated by the Department of Interior and Local Government is illegal /

My fellow senators, expect no quarters given, no holds barred /  I see a well-orchestrated, well-funded but insidious campaign for Chacha rising in crescendo in the next month or so /

Should we then be found wanting in our work of passing bills when national interest clearly dictates that we ought to address the creeping authoritarianism, the disdain for constitutionalism, the arrogance of those in power and rent-seeking cohorts of this administration?

Having asked that, let me then briefly highlight what we in the Senate have also achieved /

For one, the Senate up to the end of the Second Regular Session has conducted 259 committee hearings, including Technical Working Group, involving 422 Senate bills and resolutions, spending some 599 working hours /  For those who accused us of focusing on investigations rather than legislation, well, those statistics show otherwise /  Should this institution be taken to task if committee investigations on Executive excesses and incompetence were given more prominence by the media rather than committee hearings and floor deliberations on non-controversial bills?

Let me now feature our other achievements /

Electoral Reforms

The veracity and efficiency of the electoral process is crucial to upholding the essence of democracy, because the authenticity of the results of elections reflects the true sentiment of the people regarding their choice of leadership, which again relies on the soundness of the system by which elections are held /

RA 8436 authorized the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to use an automated election system to ensure free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections that protect the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot and reflect the genuine will of the people /  To this day, this law has not been fully implemented /

In view of this, we have concluded interpellations on S.No. 2231 which seeks to the realize the modernization of the electoral process through an Automated Election System (AES) to be reviewed by an advisory council that will review and recommend the most appropriate and cost-effective technology to be applied in the AES with the end in view of upholding this most sacred right in any democracy most specially ours /

This Chamber likewise approved RA 9340 amending RA 9164 which resets the date of the barangay and sangguniang kabataan elections to the last Monday of October 2007 and every three (3) years thereafter which, hopefully, by that time the AES would have been in place /

Justice and Human Rights

We have made great strides in the development of our judicial system with the enactment of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act and the abolition of the death penalty law /

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Resolution No. 109), ratified by the Philippine Senate on July 20, 1990, the Philippines committed to recognize the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth /

In response, we passed RA 9344 (S.No. 1402) or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, the objective of which is to fully protect the rights of "children at risk" and "children in conflict" with the law and make the detention of those children as the last resort /  This Act covers the different stages from prevention to rehabilitation and reintegration /

Further, in order to fully realize our commitment to protect every child, a Juvenile and Justice Welfare Council is vested authority to oversee the implementation of the provisions of this law and more importantly, to develop a comprehensive 3 to 5 year national juvenile interim program /

It would have been an emotional issue to deal with but the Senate managed to debate on the abolition of the death penalty rationally /  Accordingly, we resolved that in lieu of the death penalty, the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment shall be imposed /

However, we proposed that those whose sentences will be reduced to reclusion perpetua shall not be eligible for parole /

Also, the names of those who will be considered or recommended for executive clemency shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation to allow those concerned to voice their opposition to the grant of executive clemency /

Fiscal Reforms and Tax Measures

RA 9182 or the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) Act of 2002 was intended to help banks in the disposal of their non performing assets (NPAs) by granting tax exemptions and reduced registration and transfer fees /  The SPV Act was expected to strengthen the balance sheets of the financial institutions (FIs) and restore their capability to perform their role as mobilizers of savings and investments for the country's growth and development /

The Senate amended the SPV Act thru RA 9343 to provide for an extension of 18-month application period for the establishment and registration of SPVs from the effectivity date of the amending Act /  In the same fashion, we extended the tax exemptions and privileges on all sales or transfers of NPAs from FIs to the SPV on transfers by way of dacion en pago by the borrower or a third party to the FI for a period of not more than 2 years from the effectivity of this measure /

To develop the Philippine financial market, pending second reading before this Chamber is the Credit Information System bill ( S.No. 1936) establishing the Credit Information Corporation as the central registry or repository of credit information on the history and financial condition of individual and corporate borrowers /

Also in the pipeline is another significant piece of fiscal legislation, S.No. 1943, which seeks to strengthen the banking industry /  Among others, the measure proposes to authorize the Monetary Board to direct banks or quasi-banks to infuse capital within 90 days from notice whenever it finds that the adjusted capital accounts of the bank or quasi-banks is lower than the minimum capital required or has a capital adequacy ratio lower from the minimum ratio prescribed /  Another salient feature of this measure is the plan to authorize the Bangko Sentral to formulate rules and regulations for the extension of rediscounting or other similar facilities to Islamic banks taking into consideration the peculiar characteristics of Islamic banking /


To address the growing increase in energy cost brought about by our country's dependence on imported oil , this Chamber has considered on second reading Senate Bill 2226 or the Biofuels Act of 2006 /  The measure aims to encourage the use of alternative energy source for our transport sector, utilizing the rich resources of our country /  Once approved this measure will likewise encourage the creation of biofule industries which would in turn spur agro-industrial employment /


In line with one of the declared principles of the State to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them and to adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development, the Senate approved on third reading S.No. 2027 declaring the month of February of every year as "Liver Cancer and Hepatitis-B Awareness Month" in tandem with S.No. 2012, which is on second reading, that requires mandatory immunization against Hepatitis-B within 24 hours after birth /

These twin bills aim to address a growing health concern by mandating a multi-sectoral approach thru a comprehensive public education and awareness program on Hepatitis-B and liver cancer that will help educate people about the disease /

National Defense and Security

The policy of the State is to continuously develop an Armed Forces composed of professional men and women /  In pursuit thereof, career development and promotion systems shall be established to insure a career progression of all personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and to provide them with appropriate career motivations /

Pending in the Bicameral Conference Committee are two major bills /  One, S.No. 1862, prescribes the term of office of the Chief of Staff, AFP to 3 years /  The other, S.No. 1286, rationalizes the pay grade of both the officers' corps and the enlisted personnel /

We also approved S.No. 1967 redefining the term "veteran /  " The present definition is causing a lot of financial strain to the government coffers as even those who are otherwise young enough to work are already entitled to pension /

In response to the global fight against all acts of terrorism and to strongly condemn terrorism as a crime against humanity and the law of nations, pending second reading in S.No. 2137 /  This bill is a consolidation of five Senate bills on the subject all seeking to define and penalize the act of terrorism /

Labor and Employment

In the labor front, we sought to rationalize the NLRC, its composition and functions amending for this purpose Articles 213, 214, 215, and 216 of the Labor Code /

This measure proposes to increase the membership of the NLRC from 15 to 24 which may sit en banc or in 8 divisions each composed of 3 members in order to address the large volume of labor cases /  In this regard, the first to the sixth divisions of the Commission shall handle cases coming from the NCR and other parts of Luzon while the seventh and eighth divisions, cases from Visayas and Mindanao, respectively /

Civil Service

The last salary increase our government employees had was five years ago /  Over the years, prices of basic commodities and services have increased /  The current compensation scheme for our government workforce must be commensurate with our desire of providing them decent living standard /  It is public knowledge that the compensation of our national government employees is below their private counterparts /  They can no longer cope with the current standard of living /

By way of response to their clamor for pay hike, the Senate approved Committee Report No. 53 (S.No. 2196) /  This bill, a counterpart of H.No. 5013, improves the House version and seeks to authorize a special appropriation for FY 2006 in the amount of Thirteen Billion One Hundred Million Pesos (P13,100,000, 000.00) to fund the adjustment in compensation of national government employees in the form of P2,000.00 additional monthly allowance to all government employees including those of GOCCs and military personnel /  In order to ensure its impact, said additional monthly allowance shall be excluded from gross income, thus, non-taxable /

Cityhood Bills

In converting a municipality into a City, the Senate has always followed the strictest criteria prescribed by law in such conversion /  To date, this chamber has found that HB 4397 Converting the Municipality of Meycauayan in the Province of Bulacan into a Component City to be known as City of Meycauayan has met the criteria prescribed by the Local Government Code for its conversion /  Thus the Senate has approved the measure on 2nd Reading /

Commitment to the International Community

The value of the new heroes of our land cannot be over emphasized /  Over the years and more importantly during this most difficult period of our country, OFWs have kept the country afloat /

In order to protect one of, if not, our most valuable asset, this Chamber approved Resolution No. 59 concurring in the ratification of the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention (ILO Convention No. 143 adopted by the members of the International Labor Organization on June 24, 1975 during the 60 th session of the International Labor Conference at Geneva and entered into force on December 9, 1978 /

The Convention seeks to ensure that the basic human rights of all migrant workers are respected in the territories of ILO members by establishing additional standards specifically aimed at eliminating illicit and clandestine trafficking of labor /

We also approved a Resolution No. 60 concurring in the ratification of the ILO Convention on Migration for Employment (Revised Convention No. 97) /

In the environmental arena, the Senate ratified two international treaties on environmental protection which ban consumer products that use substances and technology that contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer /

While the phenomenon is not yet fully understood, experts have identified most of the culprits behind global warming /  Among the biggest causes are products that emit chlorofluorocarbons or CFC, which deplete the ozone layer /  Many industrialized nations have adopted technologies that reduce CFC emission, churning out consumer products especially in underdeveloped countries such as the Philippines /

This body also concurred in the ratification of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade which promotes shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among parties in the international trade and certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm /

The Senate also concurred in the acceptance of the Fourth Protocol to the General Agreement on Trade in Services on Basic Telecommunications Services (Resolution No. 56) /

The Fourth Protocol was formulated by the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Negotiating Group on Basic Telecommunications of which the Philippines was an active participant /  It contains a schedule of specific commitments and list of exemptions concerning basic telecommunications relating to a WTO member, as well as elaborations of provisions affecting access to and use of public telecommunications transport network and services /

Concluding Remarks

As we close this session, we may as well be reminded by what our beloved colleague, the late Senator Blas F. Ople, said: that we, Senators, regardless of party, have always been united on the need to safeguard the independence of the Senate /  Ka Blas would always recall how the 1935 Constitution abolished the Senate to give way to a unicameral national assembly; and how the Senate was revived soon after because of a Senate much needed to countervail the excessive power of the executive branch /

I agree with our respected Ka Blas for it is indeed in the Senate where the people have reposed their trust and confidence for the defense of their constitutional civil and political rights and their claim for social justice and human dignity under a rule of law /  Those are powerful declarations from our former Senate President /

On my part, let me once more leave you with this thought: the defense of our democratic institutions as well as the assurance of development to a people made weary by poverty and cynicism is the historic imperative that confronts us today /

We did well as an institution when the highest court of the land upheld our stand against EO 464 /  As I have pointed out earlier, there will be more challenges from those who are afraid of the Senate, from those who shy away from democratic, intelligent and cerebral debates which are the hallmark of a Legislature that inspires people to become a great nation /

The very survival therefore of this institution may depend on how well we discharge our duties for the people, by the people and with the people /

Mabuhay ang Senado /

Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino /

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